Showing posts with label VINYL LP REVIEWS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label VINYL LP REVIEWS. Show all posts

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Progressive-Rock-Fusion LP Review: Mandoki Soulmates-A Memory of Our Future

Release Date: March 9, 2024

Label: Inside Out Music


It's been quite a while since I last immersed myself in the progressive rock world of Mandoki Soulmates. This time, their musical journey is encapsulated in two vinyl LPs titled A Memory of Our Future. Moreover, these LPs are accompanied by a generous album-sized booklet, a visual and textual companion to their music. The richness of their sound is further enhanced by various instruments, a hallmark of their unique style.


From the first note to the last, this recording demands your attention. Each song is a masterpiece, a testament to the band's musical prowess and creativity. There was not one song I did not appreciate, a rare feat in music.


Side One starts with "Blood in the Water," a high-energy mover. The flute begins (thank you, Ian Anderson), and then some cool retro-sounding keys come into the mix. The lyrics are something to pay attention to from start to finish, and this has some clear messages. "Sharks are hungry, and the water is deep," was one phrase. These words, delivered with great harmonies and vocals, resonate deeply, evoking a sense of urgency and the need for vigilance. I do not think they are talking about fish, though.


"Enigma of Reason" follows with a mellow beginning, soft acoustics with guitar and percussion. It continues with that steady pace and feeling as they sing, "Walking on hot coals and feeling my feet are cold." It picks up more intensity with the addition of an electric guitar and some faster-paced keys with variable vocalizations ranging from slow to fast. It slows down again, and a smooth sax enters, followed by a trumpet. A notable bass line is apparent, and then a superb acoustic guitar (Al DiMeola) with worldly accents treating your senses. It is progressive in every way. Remember that these tracks are not short and have plenty of space for all the instruments to add their unique sounds and atmospheres.


"The Wanderer" closes out the first side with a slow burner. Because of the same accent, the vocals immediately reminded me of Roine Stolt (Flower Kings, etc.). Leslie Mandoki, Nick Van Eede, and Tony Carey provide the vocals. The distinctive backdrop of music for the words and emphasis on how they are presented takes hold of you as they sing, "This land is full of tears after decades of fears." Words of strong meaning come through.

Side two starts with "The Big Quit," which opens with a funkier sound. It is a total departure from previous tracks, but very good. I appreciate the lyrics; they ring true to how we live, and the meaning gets an exclamation point: "Nobody wants to work." Some quick flourishes of picking on the acoustic guitar with an interesting mix of vocal exchanges get your attention. Horns chime in and gather momentum as the guitar continues with fantastic clarity and consistency. It's an exciting and entertaining song. Another line that got me was, "Easy times created easy people; easy people bring us hard times." Then, words are reversed to serve an equally tricky situation in an endless circle. Thought-provoking lyrics and great music are an unbeatable combination.


"Devil's Encyclopedia" is the best-lyrically written song on the album. The flute starts, and percussion rings true as they sing, "Dogs of war are howling" and "Social media becomes the Devil's encyclopedia." Those words are so accurate, sad as they have become, and how they have changed our lives. Some good harmonies populate the space given and sync with the rhythms. Those elements put a lot of emphasis on those words of truth. This one was my favorite track. Adequate breaks and pauses on the vocals give you more appreciation for the musicianship and excellent vocalizations when they are there.  I loved the line, "When words fail, the music speaks," and never more accurate as the listen continues.


"A Memory of My Future" closes side two with an excellent backbeat and a superb acoustic guitar with all its elegance and color. It is a superior way to end that side with the title track.


Side three starts with "I Am Because You Are," which is very soft with a relaxed ambiance and matching music and vocal tones. The track's title is explained well, and the vocals seemingly float over the music with a gentle push.


"My Share of Your Life" is dynamic, as they sing, "Sharing life in this much too short life." It hits home. The track's easygoing heartbeat and ever-present acoustic guitar are gorgeous. The lyrics carry a sadness of reality as the music sounds off with some great timing. Some solid electric guitar lines make their presence known. The repeating chorus makes a strong impact. As with all of the tracks, each instrument is recognized, and as a listener, you are very conscious of that and how it fits in shaping the story.


Side four begins as we approach the end of this magnificent musical journey. "Matchbox Racing" reminded me fondly of being a little boy and treasuring those little toys. Horns, keys, bass, and guitars merge for a beautiful musical story. All the pieces fit together nicely as they sing this prolific line: "Don't dream your life, live your life." Sage words wrapped around outstanding prog-rock fusion.


"We Stay Loud" lives up to its name and is exciting as they sing "Bang it out and stay loud," damn straight! Solid bass lines drive it along with percussion, keeping perfect time. Horns give it an upbeat orchestral feel. I enjoyed the vocals resonating throughout to get the necessary energy flowing and make a believer out of you. I believe!


They could not have ended this album with a better-titled track. "Melting Pot" defines who they are and what kind of music you will hear as the fusion of sounds continues with great defining moments. It starts very mildly with a minimalist approach; now, who would have thought that, right? The sax and keys change the mood with added instruments here and there to keep it interesting, which they manage to do on every track. There is no time for boredom or your mind drifting while listening to this music.  This instrumental lets you focus only on the brilliance of all the musicians. And it serves as a reminder of just how powerful music can be in the hands of the right people. Some nice acoustic piano gets in the mix, and it's classically flavored for another surprising twist.


So, with Mandoki Souls on A Memory of Our Future, it's more about the choices of words and the music that drive the message. It is great music by a talented group of people, and they prove it in every track. If you want to listen to vinyl and some progressive rock fusion, this is one slice of pie you need to digest all in one sitting.


The publicity for this album explains it like this: an intergenerational supergroup of rock and fusion grandmasters with Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Mike Stern, Al di Meola, Randy Brecker, Till Brönner, Bill Evans, John Helliwell (Supertramp), Cory Henry, Richard Bona, Steve Bailey, Simon Phillips (Toto), Leslie Mandoki, Tony Carey (Rainbow), Nick van Eede (Cutting Crew), Jesse Siebenberg, and Mark Hart (both Supertramp).


How could you possibly miss that stellar lineup? Nope, it's a bullseye!


Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck TFOV Founder

June 6, 2024


Disc: 1

1. Blood in the Water

2. Enigma of Reason

3. The Wanderer

Disc: 2

1. The Big Quit

2. Devil's Encyclopedia

3. A Memory of My Future

Disc: 3:

1. I Am Because You Are

2. My Share of Your Life

3. Age of Thought

Disc: 4

1. Matchbox Racing

2. We Stay Loud

3. Melting Pot

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Prog Rock Review: Jethro Tull-The Château D’herouville Sessions 1972

Release Date: March 15, 2024

Label: ‎Chrysalis


Pre Order Link

Review Source Link 

In July 2014, I covered Jethro Tull's A Passion Play- An Extended Performance (2 CDs/2 DVDs), remastered by Steven Wilson's musical genius. Now, for the first time, that release, which included The Château D'herouville Sessions 1972, is on a 2-LP Gatefold set. Although these are separate tracks, they segue one into the next, keeping the flow of the music, however different, going without pausing. 


I also found the back story of these sessions interesting and quite humorous. As I read the extensive liner notes on the gatefold sleeves, Martin Barre's account had me laughing with tears in my eyes. Indeed, at the time, it was not so funny; it was a complete disaster on all accounts. Fortunately for music fans, we can hear it on vinyl's beautiful and warm clarity.


The tracks are solid, and it was a shame that the entire project had to be scrapped then; however, as the saying goes, better late than never. Well, at least for this JT fan. Most fans of their music would agree that the 70s was the band's most fertile period. Tull recorded this music after the immense success of the Thick As Brick album and a long worldwide tour to promote it. I believe most listeners will find tremendous enjoyment from start to finish, except listening to the reading of "The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" twice!


The lineup at the time was as follows:

Ian Anderson: vocals, flute, saxophones, acoustic guitar.

Martin Barre: electric guitar.

John Evan: piano, organ, synthesizers, speech.

Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond: bass guitar, speech, Narration on 'The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles'.

Barriemore Barlow: drums, glockenspiel, marimba.

David Palmer (now Dee Palmer) arranged and conducted the orchestra.

Note: Sides 1, 2, and 3 were remixed by Steven Wilson in 2013 (except * 2021).

Side 4, mixed by Ian Anderson.


Track one begins with a short synth ditty, then on to the "Big Top" as a rousing guitar starts as Ian begins his vocals, then an acoustic guitar, which segues into tracks "Scenario" and "Audition," and the music continues to build after some nice acoustic picking. The band's power congeals into the prog rock they were famous for. It reminded me of the Thick As A Brick album.


So on to track four, we go "Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day." I fondly remember it being on the flip side of the "Bungle In The Jungle" 45. When I started my podcast a few years back, I had an interview with Ian. The interview never saw the light of day because of a technical issue. After mentioning that it was one of my favorite tracks, he told me it was an environmental awareness statement (which may be old news to some long-time fans). This version is all acoustic and missing the electric guitar; however, it is still excellent. 


"Sailor" begins with a soft acoustic guitar and Ian singing at his mellow rhythmic best. The bass playing is notably superb. The keys are layered nicely, and a superior convergence of the band's strengths goes to an instrumental segment and right into "No Rehearsal." Side one closes out firmly, showing a crew working in sync and at its pinnacle. Then, a fast-paced period begins with a marvelous guitar and ends with the way the side started with a brief synth passage.


Side two starts oddly with babies fussing on "Left Right" as an ominous guitar begins. The keys drive forcefully, with a solid bottom keeping the course steady and accurate. Enter that familiar flute as it merges with the keys. A sharp guitar arrives and cuts through with dominance. The bass and cowbell quietly end the track as it moves into "Only Solitaire" and then to "Critique Oblique (Part I and II)." The formula of mellow acoustics to a more potent electric mix then takes over the direction. Flourishes of Tull at their best instrumentally is a highlight of this set, with some tasteful rocking to showcase their abilities and diversity. There are too many changes to count, but all of it is exceptional prog rock. Never knowing what contrast is coming next is the mark of this magnificent lineup.


Side three opens with "Animelee" (1st and 2nd Dance). Another round of instrumental bliss is upon your senses, showcasing again how vital this version of Tull was (perhaps the best version of the band?). They put all their cards on the table as a creative musical unit and continue to succeed. Towards the end, it stops with a brief acoustic piano entry, then back to the prog rock classic instrumental sound, to my delight. "The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles*" is next as you wait for "Law Of The Bungle (Part I)", "Tiger Toon," and "Law Of The Bungle (Part II)." The precursor to their hit "Bungle In The Jungle" shows its origin, and you notice some familiar melodies. Their lyrics are a riot, too!


Up next are the different mixes of "Scenario" (1988 mix), "Audition" (1988 mix), "No Rehearsal" (1988 mix), and "Only Solitaire" (1974 mix). It's different from the previous mixes, but all very good. Excellent acoustic guitar starts as it builds to a more aggressive sound, and Ian is in fine form. The flute, as usual, compliments the other instruments with no sacrifice at any position to make way for that. That is the reason this music is so strong consistently. Martin cuts loose on a big riff and then gives way to Ian's short reading. Then it reverts to rocking, blending into "Only Solitaire" and then "The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles (1973 mix)". The album closes its fourth and final side with the final version of "Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day (1974 mix)" from the Warchild album.    


The Château D'herouville Sessions 1972 were a lot to absorb, but I did so eagerly with great joy. Ironically, with all the disappointments from these sessions at the time, we got a double shot of all the music, first in 2014 and now on vinyl ten years later. Don't miss it if you love vinyl, prog rock, and Jethro Tull.   

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-PMR Founder

February 10, 2024


SIDE 1 (Reel date: 10th September 1972):

   1) The Big Top                                                                     

   2) Scenario                                                                          

   3) Audition                                                                            

   4) Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day           

   5) Sailor                                                                               

   6) No Rehearsal     

Notes: A clue to what the original album title might have been: ‘the one about the after life’ is faintly written at the top of the tape reel box. ‘Audition’ and ‘No Rehearsal’ were played live in concert during late 1972 and early 1973. ‘Skating Away’ received further overdubs in 1974 and was included on the ‘Warchild’ album released that year. In 1988, ‘Scenario’, ‘Audition’ and ‘No Rehearsal’ were edited together and presented with new flute overdubs on the ’20 Years Of Jethro Tull’ 5LP box set.

SIDE 2 (Reel date: 15th September 1972):

   1) Left Right                                                                         

   2) Only Solitaire                                                                   

   3) Critique Oblique (Part I)                                      

   4) Critique Oblique (Part II)

Notes: ‘Left Right’ was played live in concert during late 1972 and early 1973 and ‘Only Solitaire’ was briefly played live as an instrumental at the start of some shows in July 1972. ‘Critique Oblique (Part I)’ was re-worked and re-recorded in early 1973 for ‘A Passion Play’ while elements of ‘(Part II)’ became the passage ‘Best Friends’, also on ‘A Passion Play’. ‘Only Solitaire’ was released without further overdubs a year later in 1974 on the ‘Warchild’ album. This album reel was eventually released in its entirety on the ‘Nightcap’ double CD in 1993 with new flute overdubs.

SIDE 3 (Reel date: 25th September 1972):

   1) Animelee (1st Dance)                                                       

   2) Animelee (2nd Dance)

   3) The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles*                                 

   4) Law Of The Bungle (Part I)                                             

   5) Tiger Toon                                                                       

   6) Law Of The Bungle (Part II)  

Notes: This tape box was clearly labeled ‘Side 3’. A missing song entitled ‘Animal Song (Hare’s Spectacles)’ that appeared between ‘Animelee (2nd Dance)’ and ‘Law Of The Bungle (Part I)’ was indeed ‘The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles’. It was cut from the third Château reel and spliced into the 16-track tape for ‘A Passion Play’ side 2 in January 1973 with extensive orchestral overdubs sadly wiping Ian’s original acoustic guitar track. Presented here for the first time is the track as close as possible to how it was recorded in the Chateau. The tune for ‘The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles’ was played in concert on the summer 1972 US tour during an on-stage comedy routine.

The ‘Tiger Toon’ motif was re-recorded in December 1972 to form the opening section ‘Prelude’ of ‘A Passion Play’. An excerpt of ‘Animelee (1st Dance)’ was played live during Ian’s flute solo during late 1972 and early 1973.

This album reel was eventually released in its entirety (minus ‘The Hare…’) on the ‘Nightcap’ double CD in 1993 with new flute overdubs.

SIDE 4 (Original Released Mixes):

   1) Scenario [1988 mix]                                                        

   2) Audition [1988 mix]                                  

   3) No Rehearsal [1988 mix]

   4) Only Solitaire [1974 mix]          

   5) The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles [1973 mix]                            

   6) Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day [1974 mix]

Notes: Presented here is a selection of the songs from the three recorded sides of the aborted LP as they appeared on later records. ‘Scenario,’ ‘Audition’, and ‘No Rehearsal’ was mixed and edited in 1988 for the ’20 Years Of Jethro Tull’ 5LP box set for which Ian recorded new flute overdubs. ‘The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles’ is presented in the arrangement completed in early 1973 with orchestral overdubs to end side one and begin side two of the ‘A Passion Play’ LP.

The original 1974 ‘Warchild’ LP mixes for ‘Skating Away’ and ‘Only Solitaire’ complete the selection.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

VINYL LP REVIEW: Phil Lanzon-48 Seconds

Release Date: August 9, 2019

Label: Phil Lanzon Ditties

Phil Lanzon has quite the musical resume. He has been the rock steady keyboard player for Uriah Heep since 1986. Before that, he was in many other groups and has been playing the ivory keys since his childhood. Phil is also a very talented artist with his work displayed on his website.

48 Seconds is his second proper solo album. The eye-catching artwork on the album sleeves is an indicator of what the album’s title is about. The 1906 catastrophic earthquake in San Francisco took 3,000 lives in 48 Seconds! Hard to believe but true. This is how fragile our lives are. In the end, Mother Nature always makes the final decision, as it so appropriately says at the close of this terrific album.

The two-LP set comes housed in a gatefold format with two blue/green swirl 180-gram LPs. It looks mighty pretty spinning around on a turntable and oh yes, this music is great! I have been quite aware of Phil’s work since he joined Uriah Heep and very appreciative of the talents he brought to that legendary band. To have the opportunity to hear such a finely crafted and the well-presented solo album is the cherry on top of the mountain of ice cream. Speaking for myself, of course, I did not know what to expect and was very pleased with all four sides of vinyl presented.

As you can see by the list of contributors Mr. Lanzon had some help in making this project a success. His vocals and playing are incredibly strong and the support players elevate his efforts to a very high level of competency from start to finish.

48 Seconds is like a rock opera if you will that touches upon the past and present day. As the two intersect it makes you wish that there was a time machine you could step into to go back to a simpler time when all the computers, the internet, and cell phones did not exist. This point is well taken in the track “Face To Face.” The words hit home with lines like “Bring it back, real communication.” Instead of a nation of zombies in front of a screen we can once again become a communicating society, in person, not in real-time on the laptop or streaming, just being present in the physical world with all those digital distractions non-existent, even if it’s only for an hour, 10 minutes, a few minutes! Our humanity could be realized again and we can stop living in a George Orwell novel. This is one song of many that I enjoyed.

“Rock n Roll Children” was my pick to add to The Final on Vinyl Spotify Playlist. The combination of rock, pop, and prog in these songs are irresistibly driven with strong rhythm and a no-nonsense rock approach. “Blue Mountain” and “You Can Make A Living” were a few others that hit my sweet spot for straight-ahead toe-tapping rock that I would want to hear more than once.

48 Seconds is the portrait of a veteran rock musician spreading his wings and using all the tools at his disposal to create a great recording that any fan of rock music would genuinely appreciate. Having great artwork never hurts and putting it out on colorful collectible vinyl is the last thing that closes the deal for this listener.

Phil Lanzon has released a superb story set to music that is yet one more feather in a cap that is starting to look like a full headdress. 48 Seconds is a testament to history, music, and one talented focused man that was ready to go in another direction and give it his all. It worked out very well Phil, and I look forward to hearing you more with Uriah Heep and your next solo adventure.

Recording lineup:

* Phil Lanzon - Keys and lead vocals

* John Mitchell - Lead vocals

* Andy Makin - Lead vocals

* Richard Cottle - Additional keys, Saxes

* Neal Wilkinson - Drums

* Adam Goldsmith - Guitar

* Mick O'Donohue - Guitar

* Miriam Grey - Lead vocals, background vocals

* Phoebe Street, Andy Caine, Andy Playfoot - Background vocals

* Tom Walsh - Trumpets

* Clare Mcinerney - Saxes

* Neil Sidwell - Trombones

* Chris Haigh - Violin solo

* Richard Harwood - Cello solo

* Levine Andrade - Viola solo

* London Telefilmonic Orchestra - Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello, Double Bass

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-TFOV Founder

August 14, 2019

Founder of:

Review Provided By The Final on Vinyl


Side A:
01. Azura's Theme (Instrumental) 
02. In The Rain 
03. Forty Line  

Side B:
04. Rock N Roll Children  
05. Blue Mountain

Side C:
06. Look At The Time 
07. Road To London 
08. You Can Make A Living

Side D:
09. Face To Face 
10. 48 Seconds